UK companies must beware of undermining their own workforces by taking the easy option and looking abroad for staff, according to the head of the CBI.
CBI director-general Richard Lambert, making his first major speech after two months at the helm of the business group, said recruiting foreign staff to fill skills gaps was not a rational plan.
“If we go abroad for skills, we will not be sufficiently dynamised [sic] to raise our own skills at home,” he said.
Research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development shows that almost two-fifths of UK employers are recruiting staff from abroad, with half of that number increasing the proportion of migrant labour in the past 12 months.
Lambert said the world was in the grip of a new industrial revolution where the cheap and easy flow of information around the world could soon mean the outsourcing of high-skilled roles such as accountancy and legal services.
“The big challenge will be to create the skills needed to fill the new jobs that will emerge in this coming period of transition to replace those that have gone offshore,” he said. “We will need a step change in the quality and quantity of training available to all the workforce in the country. Both business and government must play a decisive part.”
Lambert called for the temporary suspension of migrant workers from new EU accession states Romania and Bulgaria to allow the UK to “pause for breath”.